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Romare Bearden: A Black Odyssey


March 29, 2014 - August 17, 2014

Romare Bearden’s works of art reflect universal experiences filtered through an African-American lens. In this exhibition, Bearden’s colorful collages and watercolors tell Homer’s ancient tale, The Odyssey. While the story of Odysseus has been told for more than 3,000 years, in Bearden’s vision, the brave Greek hero and all of the characters are black. Although the imagery is rooted in the African-American experience, the familiarity of these tales and the beauty of the images will remind viewers that each of us is on a personal odyssey.

A second phase of the exhibition opened on May 24. It focuses on Bearden’s surprising connection to (and use of) the oldest object in the Currier’s collection, an 800-year old painting by the Follower of Meliore. Works by Bearden’s contemporaries, Charles Alston and Jacob Lawrence will also be on view, along with the newly acquired Train Whistle Blues, a watercolor that Bearden created around 1979.

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Not only was Romare Bearden a great artist, he also composed more than 20 jazz songs.The most famous was "Sea Breeze," recorded in the 1950s by Dizzy Gillespie and Billy Eckstine. Listen to a playlist of jazz songs that inspired Bearden on Spotify.

Exhibition Support

The Currier's presentation of Romare Bearden: A Black Odyssey is organized by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service in coordination with the Romare Bearden Foundation and Estate and DC Moore Gallery. The exhibition and its related educational resources are supported by a grant from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation. The Currier's presentation of Romare Bearden: A Black Odyssey is sponsored by Hitchiner Manufacturing Co., Inc., with additional support from Optima Bank. Individual support from Dwight & Susi Churchill and Wilton Consulting Group, LLC.

Image credits: All images Art © Romare Bearden Foundation/Licensed by VAGA, New York. Home To Ithaca, 1977, Collage, Courtesy Mount Holyoke College Art Museum, South Hadley, Massachusetts. Gift of the estate of Eileen Paradis Barber (Class of 1929); Circe, 1977, Collage, Courtesy Estate of Nanette Bearden and DC Moore Gallery, New York.